The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski [thoughts]

The Winner's CurseThe Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski
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Release Date:March 4th 2014
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Series: The Winner’s Trilogy #1

Goodreads description: Winning what you want may cost you everything you love

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions.

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin.

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart

I didn’t really know what The Winner’s Curse was about, but it got a lot of buzz and I was interested.

The Winner’s Curse is about war! Kestrel (oh that name. It had a point but still.) is from a country/society that invaded another country and took it over. They live in their houses and use the people as slaves. Kestrel is a general’s daughter in a highly militaristic society. Arin, a slave she acquires, is…well, a slave. He doesn’t like the people that conquered his land, because really, who would? But they are interested in each other, of course.

Overall, I really liked this book. It was engaging and I was entertained. Kestrel isn’t amazingly skilled at every aspect of life, she’s actually bad at fighting and her father wants her to join the military. She’s good at strategy but she doesn’t want to join up and fight. She also doesn’t want to get married, but those are her only choices. She’s defiant, but she’s vulnerable too.

Arin is a slave and he’s understandably angry. His way of life has changed and now he’s a slave, along with his people. Every day he sees the remnants of his society under the power of violent conquerors. When he’s sold to Kestrel, he’s resistant, but his interest in her grows. I was kind of pleasantly surprised by Arin’s story, I loved that there was stuff going on I didn’t see coming, and it felt realistic.

Their romance was kind of weird for me. I couldn’t always understand why they were drawn together. I wasn’t completely against it, and I could like it at certain points, but I wasn’t completely sold.

I liked seeing the story from both sets of eyes. I liked the world and there were several things going on I didn’t expect. My major issue with it is something I could rant about but don’t want to spoil for anyone, and it might not be as huge for everyone else: towards the end a turn in the book kind of made everything fall apart for me. It kind of tore at some of the ideas the book had built up earlier. I couldn’t take the twist seriously and it bummed me out on the book,. and it’s something the next book will build on, so I’m not very sure about that. But I’m still interested in the world and characters and I want to see what else can happen.

rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Despite my big issue with part of the ending, I liked this book and this world! I want to read it again at some point and I will keep reading the series. It’s not a case of love but it is a lot of like and appreciation! I’ve actually read The Shadow Society by Rutkoski and I think I gave it 3 stars (before blogging), so I think she’s talented and I’m interested in her work. If you like war, especially if you’re interested in ancient Rome/Greece and strategy and difficult romances, I think you’d enjoy this one!

 

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart [thoughts]

We Were Liars cover We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
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Release Date: May 13th 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Series: none

 

 

Goodreads description: A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE

I love E. Lockhart’s writing, and I of course saw a LOT of good reviews for We Were Liars before it came out, so it was an obvious go for me!

We Were Liars is about: A rich family that owns an island by Martha’s Vineyard and does rich family things. They are “perfect” and their life is a mess. Main character Cady is trying to piece together memories of an accident a few years ago and learns stuff she had forgotten about the family.

I have so many mixed feelings about this book. I saw a lot of hype and OMG!! about this book and the ENDING, but the twist was REALLY obvious to me. From the beginning, I had a good idea what was going on. I was actually hoping I was wrong so I could be all “OMG!!” too:

But it was what I thought it was. And that didn’t make the book bad or unenjoyable, but it did change the experience for me. Since I knew what was going on, I looked at events differently. I think some emotional attachment might have been lost, and I think if you’ve read it you might be able to see why. HOWEVER: I still really liked this book. It wasn’t what I expected and I wasn’t blown away, but I liked Cady and her journey a lot.

Cady went through a rough time, had to recover, and had to learn about herself and her family again. The view into a messed up family that pretends to be perfect but is really filled with bickering and pettiness was really insightful, because although not all families are horrible to each other, there are usually horrible moments in everyone’s life when you’re just like “WHY can’t everyone just be nice to each other?” And I think that’s a huge part of this book, looking at the why and trying to change things for the better, even if you go about it in a way that might add problems to your life.

The writing is amazing and there were a lot of quotes that were full of feeling and resonated. I didn’t save any particular ones (I tend to think I will go back and look through the book later but put it off and move on to the next book) but the writing is so lovely. And the island setting will make you wish you could fly somewhere nice and chill out on a private island. With books, of course!

rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I do think I would read We Were Liars again, I think it would benefit from a second read. I am pretty sure it’s going on my “buy list” even though I’m not dying for my own copy this second. I really like E. Lockhart’s writing and I definitely want to read anything she writes. I think this could be a good match for anyone who likes gritty stories, but if you’re good at figuring stories out, don’t hinge too much on the mystery/twist everyone raves about.

 

This is a really difficult book to talk about because of the setup and ending, so my review probably isn’t the best, sorry.

Have you read it? Were you shocked? Do you plan to read it?

 

 

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge [thoughts]

Cruel Beauty coverCruel Beauty by Roasmund Hodge
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Release Date: January 28th 2014
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Series: Cruel Beauty Universe

Goodreads description: Based on the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom-all because of a foolish bargain struck by her father. And since birth, she has been in training to kill him.

With no choice but to fulfill her duty, Nyx resents her family for never trying to save her and hates herself for wanting to escape her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, Nyx abandons everything she’s ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, destroy his enchanted castle, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.

But Ignifex is not at all what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle-a shifting maze of magical rooms-enthralls her.

As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex’s secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. Even if she could bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him? With time running out, Nyx must decide what is more important: the future of her kingdom, or the man she was never supposed to love.

I decided to read Cruel Beauty  because I enjoy retellings and it was getting crazy amounts of praise among bloggers I follow. I don’t think I knew about the mythology factor much beforehand, but that would have made me want to read it more.

Nyx is a princess type person (I don’t remember her father’s title) and she has been brought up to marry an evil ruler person who is monstrous. There’s a plan for her to murder him and free the land but things get complicated. The Goodreads summary for this one seems pretty spot on.

I have mixed feelings about this one. I liked a lot of the world building. It was based on a lot of Greek/Roman ideas and I think (I don’t have the book with me right now, I read it on Overdrive) it’s almost like an AU of somewhere in Greece. I loved the house and how it changed, but I wasn’t completely sure about all the seals and magic that was supposed to be used. I loved other magical things, and the use of mythology. I thought it added a lot of depth to the story.

I loved how selfish Nyx was, and that she wasn’t just dying to be the hero. She wanted a life that was her own, and not having a choice really bothered her. She let herself be afraid and she didn’t force herself to be strong at every single moment. I liked that, it was different from some YA heroines. She wasn’t completely hateful and unlikable, she felt guilt and love, but I understood where all her negative feelings were coming from. It’s okay to not be the perfect girl that wants to fall in line and do everything you’re told, well-behaved women and all that. I also liked Nyx and Ignifex’s relationship, it was antagonistic. She was sent in with a mission but it was easily confused. It seemed like it was fun for her to get to know someone that was completely different, and she enjoyed getting to know him and arguing with him, even knowing that he was…evil.

I did not care for how Nyx’s family worked at all. I was on Nyx’s side, and when she started to feel guilty about her selfishness, I wanted to yell at her. Some of the fire in her attitude seemed to fizzle at the first sight of a sprinkle. She was too easily swayed one way or the other, and it annoyed me. There is one big decision in the book that really made me frown and felt disappointing for me. I don’t think it would be as annoying to everyone else, though. The ending was something else I didn’t love, or maybe not what happened but certain circumstances, but again, I’m not sure it would bother anyone else the same way it bothered me.

rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

As you can tell, I have mixed feelings about Cruel Beauty, but I did enjoy it. It’s a difficult decision whether this gets a 3 or a 3.5 but I think I could possibly want to reread it at some point, so I’m going with 3.5. And I believe, from how the series seems on Goodreads, that there might be more stories in this world but not exactly a series. I’m not completely sure, but I plan to read more by the author. I recommend it if you love retellings, strong girls that don’t just fall into place, and feisty relationships. Goodreads average rating: 3.82.

Roasmund Hodge‘s website and twitter!

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales [thoughts]

This Song Will Save Your Life coverThis Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
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Release Date: September 17th 2013
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Series: none

Goodreads description: Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

Told in a refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny voice, THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE is an exuberant novel about identity, friendship, and the power of music to bring people together

I saw so much buzz about This Song Will Save Your Life from bloggers! It was on my Fall TBR list and it took me a while to get to it. Despite a few issues, I am really glad I read it!

Elise has never really “clicked” with anyone. She’s always been an outsider, but she has no idea why. She’s never had a close friend, and people can be downright cruel. The harder she tries to make connections, the more they seem to pass her by. After a particularly bad encounter, Elise is depressed and acts on her depression, which leads to a lot of changes in her life. Then, she finds a club on accident and happens upon people that genuinely like her and learns about DJ-ing, and things begin to change.

I did not exactly love Elise. I understood a lot about her and related to her on certain experiences. I did not always understand her reactions and feelings. I didn’t find her voice “refreshingly genuine and laugh-out-loud funny” as the description thrusts at readers. I grew to like her and better appreciate her actions as I continued reading. While I didn’t always understand or agree with things Elise did, I think it’s important to see how other people might cope with situations. People handle things differently, and it’s important to realize that.

I really liked that Elise found a hobby that could help her through a difficult time. I know music can help people in so many ways, and this book really did a good job of showing that. The right song at the right moment can do so much for your mood. I loved reading about Elise discovering how to read the mood and use the music. I loved seeing her learn about herself and others, I loved seeing her grow. I liked the family aspect of the book. I liked seeing Elise make mistakes and learn from them, too. I liked the romance and how it wasn’t the focus of the book, and it didn’t go how I expected it to go.

There were a few times when the book made me a little uncomfortable, but nothing too huge. I didn’t exactly fall in love with it, but I did like it and the end raised my opinion at least half a star.

rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

This Song Will Save Your Life is a special book. I had a few issues with it, but I’m glad I read it! The ending really made the book for me. I really want to read Past Perfect and I’ll be interested to see what else Sales writes! I think This Song Will Save Your Life might be for you if you enjoy teen angst, DJ-ing and music, and characters that learn and grow!

Leila Sales‘s website and twitter!

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth [book review]

The Miseducation of Cameron Post coverThe Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
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Release Date: February 7th 2012
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Series: n/a

Goodreads description: When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship–one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to “fix” her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self–even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a stunning and unforgettable literary debut about discovering who you are and finding the courage to live life according to your own rules

I chose The Miseducation of Cameron Post randomly (like I choose so many of my reads) because it was a really hot day and I was tired of looking at the library. I had no clue what it was about.

I am really not sure how to review this book, and I feel like I say that all the time lately, sorry. There were moments in this book that I really enjoyed, and there were moments that were angering and painful. I felt so much for Cameron, and I was extremely invested in her story. I didn’t love the book, but I think it was important.

I liked Cameron Post as a character. She is dealing with the loss of her parents, the introduction of a new family system, the development of her personality and sexuality, and school and friends all at the same time. When her parents die, she’s relieved because they won’t know she likes girls. After that, she lives with her aunt and her grandmother. She kind of gets away with a lot for a while. She hangs out with a group of guys, she swims and she runs track. She watches tons of movies and connects with a girl from out of state who kind of helps her learn about certain things.

Her aunt, her main legal guadian, is extremely religious. She makes Cameron go to church with her, which leads to even more confusion and a lot of guilt. Cameron has to worry about people finding out about how she feels and not knowing if it’s right or wrong. She goes through different stages in dealing with her own acceptance of her sexuality.

Cameron faces some really heartbreaking things, and I just wanted to hug her. She’s already lost her parents, and then she has to face a lot of shit with her family and friends. She definitely gets an ugly glimpse of how awful some Christians can be about anything different, which is really disgusting. Cameron does learn a lot about herself and I liked learning with her. She was such a great character. The book has an open ending, and while I would have loved to know more about Cameron’s life, I think it fit the book pretty well.

rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is a haunting look at how GLBT/LGBT teens can be treated. It is upsetting and uplifting. There were parts I enjoyed and parts that were difficult to push through. It wasn’t exactly an enjoyable read for me overall, but I’m glad I read it! I definitely think it’s a worth a read. I wouldn’t really want to read it again, but I’d happily read anything else by Emily M. Danforth in the future. You should check out The Miseducation of Cameron Post if you like a realistic look of what GLBT (or LGBT?) teens deal with in intolerant families and religions.

Check out Emily M. Danforth‘s website and twitter!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz [book review]

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the UniverseAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
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Release Date: February 21st 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Series: n/a

Goodreads description: A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be

I went into Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe with limited knowledge. I knew it was about friendship and GLBT subjects. I had seen some good things about it and I wanted another book for Bout of Books so I picked it up.

Aristotle or Ari is 15 and unhappy. He lives in El Paso, Texas. He is Mexican American. He speaks English and Spanish. It’s 1987. He doesn’t have many friends. He meets Dante, who also does not have many friends. They become friends and grow and learn things.

I will be honest: I almost didn’t finish this book. There was something about the writing and the beginning felt so slow to me. I’m so glad I didn’t stop reading it, because while it’s not a favorite, I really enjoyed it! It took me a while to get into the flow of Ari’s head and for me the writing didn’t feel lyrical (as the description states). Once I got used to the voice, I got more into the story and it flowed a lot quicker, which made me more interested in what was happening.

The whole story is in Ari’s point of view and it’s first person. Ari is lost, lonely, and confused. In other words, he’s a typical teenager. He has issues with his father, a quiet Vietnam vet with his own problems. His mother is always worried about him and he wants space. He misses a brother he doesn’t know. A lot of the story focuses on his relationship with his father and brother. I loved seeing how much his father loved him even though it was an obvious struggle for him to be open about his experiences and feelings. When they do open up to each other and talk about things, it’s so lovely and heartwarming. I liked Ari’s mom, too. She is a teacher and she has already lost a son to prison, so she’s worried about Ari’s teenage angst and wants the best for him. Ari’s relationship with her was reluctantly sweet and I loved it.

Dante is a fun character. He’s smart and he’s freer and more open about how he feels. I love that at first Ari wasn’t sure if the friendship was worth it, because he’s so sour. Dante is just a positive and hopeful person, which is refreshing. He’s crazy about his parents, which is so nice. He’s different and he knows he’s different. I like that Ari knows that Dante is different and while he thinks about it, it never gives him pause. I enjoyed when Dante was open about anything awkward and it kind of weirded Ari out.

Aristotle and Dante together are fun. Their story developed a bit differently than I expected. There’s a big emphasis on friendship, and I loved their friendship! There were a few things that felt off to me. I liked what happened in the end, but what led up to the ending was kind of weird to me. I also wanted a bit more from the ending, but it still left me happy!

The book does deal with difficult subjects and I think it deals with them very well. Fitting in, family, sexuality, growing up, and so much more.  It was heartwarming and heartwrenching. I had a few issues, but it left me feeling warm and fuzzy!

rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

For a book I almost didn’t finish, I really enjoyed Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I had issues with pacing and a few other details, but overall I think it was a lovely book. I don’t see it being a book I’d read again, but I definitely think it’s a book worth reading! If you like discovery, growth, well-written families, friends and more, you will probably enjoy this book. I think most people will enjoy it!

You can learn more about Benjamin Alire Sáenz here!

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys [book review]

Out of the Easy coverOut of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
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Release Date: February 12th 2013
Publisher: Philomel Books
Series: n/a

Goodreads description: It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer.

She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.

I knew Out of the Easy was set in New Orleans, but I didn’t know much else about it. I saw something about a murder on the jacket flap. It was sort of a random pick.

“My mother’s a prostitute” is such a great first line. Josie has grown up with a neglectful and hateful mother. People have judged her for her mother’s choice of occupation. She’s worked hard at two jobs and school to be something better and different. She has hopes and dreams to change her life and make it better. She wants more out of life than the same old dirty life where nobody really gets ahead honestly.

Josie is familiar with the mean and dirty side of the Big Easy. She grew up with a mom who cared more about the money and desire that came from prostitution than her child. Her mother resented her and blamed her for changes in her body and the decline in desire. Josie grew up interacting with whores and a low class type of people. She’s close-ish with Willie, the madam or lady who runs the brothel where her mom works. Willie is a businesswoman, she sells sex but she also deals in information. She knows what happens in her area and she has scouts watching for information on the street. She’s closer to Cokie, Willie’s driver.  Cokie is the warmest person in Josie’s life.

She loves books and works at a bookstore. She also lives above the store and is close with the owner and his son. The owner is sick and she helps the son take care of him. When she meets a wealthy girl who goes to Smith in the Northeast, she starts wishing for that life. She’s always wanted out, but now she has a more specific goal.

The setup of the book was lovely, getting to know the city and the people in Josie’s life. Throughout the story the reader gets to know Willie, Cokie,  along with some of the prostitutes pretty well. There are some pretty fun stories about the crazy things that go on in the house. Some are cringe-worthy and some are entertaining.

There was the murder mystery that Josie was very interested in. Along with the seedy parts of New Orleans, there was organized crime and Josie’s mother is dating a creep of a crook. Josie was left in some lurches and had to figure out how to handle some things. I thought some of the drama was almost overdone. I get that it’s a dangerous life and dark times, but it was just a bit much for me.

Jesse was my favorite character and I wanted more of him! He was charming and Josie expected the worst of him. Like a lot of things, Jesse wasn’t what she expected. She thought he was low class and wouldn’t amount to much, and she was surprised to learn he too wanted more from life.

Josie misjudged a lot of people in her life, which is a realistic mistake. A few times, I was frustrated and wanted to tell her to go with her gut instead of hiding everything away and being isolated. She made mistakes, but she definitely learned from them. She was such a likable character because she had such realistic motivations and responses to her mistakes. I think she learned a lot in the story.

I loved the completely unique subject. I haven’t read a lot of books set in Louisiana and not in this time period. It’s a difficult time in a difficult place, which is unique and fascinating. It’s a look at the side of society people look down on, even Josie looked down on them sometimes and she was a part of it. It’s not easy for people that are in ruts to get stuck, to not be able to work their way out. But sometimes, with enough hard work you can find a way out.

rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Out of the Easy is a good read! I don’t think I would ever read it again, but I will definitely read more by Ruta Sepetys and plan on reading Shades of Gray. This book has an average rating of 4.07 rating on Goodreads, so if it sounds like something you like, you should definitely check it out! I think Out of the Easy would be great for you if you enjoy descriptions of old timey New Orleans, some crime and risque walks of life, and a girl finding her own way even when it’s difficult.

Check out Ruta Sepetys‘s website and twitter!

When You Were Here by Daisy Whitney [Book Review]

When You Were Here coverWhen You Were Here by Daisy Whitney
Goodreads | Amazon
Release Date: June 4th 2013
Publisher: Little, Brown
Series: n/a

Goodreads description: Filled with humor, raw emotion, a strong voice, and a brilliant dog named Sandy Koufax, When You Were Here explores the two most powerful forces known to man-death and love. Daisy Whitney brings her characters to life with a deft touch and resonating authenticity.

Danny’s mother lost her five-year battle with cancer three weeks before his graduation-the one day that she was hanging on to see.

Now Danny is left alone, with only his memories, his dog, and his heart-breaking ex-girlfriend for company. He doesn’t know how to figure out what to do with her estate, what to say for his Valedictorian speech, let alone how to live or be happy anymore.

When he gets a letter from his mom’s property manager in Tokyo, where she had been going for treatment, it shows a side of his mother he never knew. So, with no other sense of direction, Danny travels to Tokyo to connect with his mother’s memory and make sense of her final months, which seemed filled with more joy than Danny ever knew. There, among the cherry blossoms, temples, and crowds, and with the help of an almost-but-definitely-not Harajuku girl, he begins to see how it may not have been ancient magic or mystical treatment that kept his mother going. Perhaps, the secret of how to live lies in how she died.

When You Were Here was another book on my Top Ten Summer TBR. Jamie from The Perpetual Page Turner said the male POV was as good as Adam from Where She Went by Gayle Forman, which is high praise in my opinion. I also knew it was a sad book and liked the sound of it.

This book basically destroyed me. Can that just be my review? It was painful, there was ugly crying involved. I knew it was going to be sad going in, the description definitely warns you, you know Danny is trying to cope with the loss of his mother. I expected crying and sadness. But this book has surprise sadness lurking. I’m not going to spoil it, but it was rough and if I’d known about it, I wouldn’t have read the book. That being said, I’m glad I didn’t know about it. I had some issues with this book, but over all I liked it.

So, like we’ve already talked about, Danny is trying to cope with his mother’s death from cancer. In the beginning of the story, he is a total douche. I know you can get away with a lot because someone you love dies, but he stretches it way too far in my opinion. He’s also coping with his ex-girlfriend and love of his life, Holland. She dumped him when she left for college and now that she’s back, she’s always around and helping him. He isn’t sure what to do about that because he still loves her and doesn’t understand why they’re not together. Danny is lost in sadness and douchiness, confused about life and how to spend his days when he gets a letter about his mom’s apartment in Japan (yes, they have an apartment in Japan, who doesn’t?” The letter adds to the confusion which makes him decide to go to Japan and investigate.

Danny was an interesting character. He has been through a lot, but a lot of people have been through a lot. I’m sure many of them want to be jerks but don’t, so it might have been really nice for him to be able to act like a twelve-year-old. He is extremely adorable with his dog, Sandy Koufax. He asks her questions and gets sad when he has to leave her, his relationship with his dog is so realistic and was something I really loved about the book. When Danny becomes more focused on finding out what happened in Japan, he becomes a lot more tolerable. He discovers a lot of things he didn’t know and is surprised to learn certain things about his mother. He has to examine how he feels about what he learns and has to look at his own life because of what he learns.

I loved learning about Japan. It was an awesome and unusual setting. It’s a really cool aspect of the story but it’s a little weird, too. Danny’s family was wealthy and his mom could afford to go anywhere for treatment and they owned an apartment in Japan. It’s nice for the story, but it was also convenient. Kana was the daughter of the lady that took care of the apartment while the family was gone. She’s a teenager (I think 17) and she was so much fun! She was happy and wouldn’t let Danny be too serious. She definitely kept him check.

The relationship aspect is difficult for me to talk about because I don’t want to spoil anything. It was good and bad. I liked them both and I liked the chemistry and romance between them. I loved the story of how they got together and started liking each other. I don’t exactly buy the reason she broke up with him. It really frustrated me, and I won’t say anymore about it here because if I do, it will turn into a rant.

I also had some issues with how quickly Danny developed. It seemed really soon, the story takes place in one summer with flashbacks throughout, especially because of how bitter he is in the beginning. It seemed too easy for me. However, I did actually like the resolution and thought it was fitting, it just seemed rushed to me. I had a few other small gripes but nothing huge. A lot of the resolution seemed too simple considering the complicated situations that were involved. I think it just needed more effort. The simplicity didn’t make it bad, but it felt a little emptier than I (personally) was expecting.

So, I obviously had a lot of issues with this book but part of me just loved it anyway. I was sobbing and soaking tissues and even though there were moments that had me rolling my eyes, I really connected with the story and the characters. I liked Danny, even though he could be a jerk. I liked Holland even though I didn’t agree with her actions. I loved Kana and Sandy Koufax was amazing and I wish she would have been around more!

rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I had issues, but I think it was a good book. Some infuriating instances but a lot of good things happened, too. I am pretty certain I could never read this book again, unless I was just aching and needed to cry. I would recommend it if you like sad reads with surprising sad hidden inside, guys being adorable with dogs, fun and fashionable Japanese girls, a sad but lovely romances and endless tears.

Check out Daisy Whitney‘s website and twitter!

Review: The Program by Suzanne Young

The Program coverThe Program by Suzanne Young
Goodreads | Amazon
Release Date: April 30th 2013
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Series: The Program #1
Rating: rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads description: In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into The Program. A book about suicide as an epidemic? But I’m glad I took a chance with it.

Sloane lives in a world where teenage suicide kills one in three teenagers. Nobody knows the exact reasons but they have several ideas. Society views suicide as a behavioral contagion for teens. Sloane’s school district came up with The Program as an answer. They monitor teens for signs of depression and if they discover anything, they remove them from school and their homes. People outside of The Program don’t really know what happens inside, but when teens return from it, they don’t remember much from their lives before. They go to a different school and seem fundamentally different.

Everyone knows someone that’s committed suicide. Everyone is expected to be perfectly emotionless despite the fact that so many friends and family members die. They are always watched and questioned. There are handlers around to cart people off to The Program at any signs of depression.

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Book Review: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Throne of Glass book coverThrone of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Goodreads|Book Depository
Release Date: August 7th 2012
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Series: Throne of Glass #1
Rating:

Goodreads description:After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best. Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

I enjoyed Throne of Glass. When I was done reading, I wanted to know more about the world and characters. I wanted to go reread parts of it. It wasn’t perfect but I liked it. I do wish I’d known about the pronunciation guide on the author’s blog before I read it though!

Celaena is an infamous assassin; but she was betrayed and captured. She works and suffers in a prison work camp which is basically a death sentence. She’s a killer with honed skills and a lot of rage. So when Prince Dorian and his captain of the guard Chaol take her out of the camp with the chance to compete to become the king’s champion and win her freedom. The competition is against 23 other criminals and the winning might lead to freedom, but only after four years serving a tyrant king. A dangerous competition for a horrible job or the rest of her life in a harsh work camp–it isn’t a difficult decision.

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